TODAY -
Bodies up in arms against Loktak Operation
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, April 20 2009: Even as displaced students staged a Wakat Meepham demanding the ongoing Operation Summer Storm of the Army at Keibul Lamjao National Park of Loktak lake be stopped and allowed them to go to school and attend normal classes, students bodies like All Manipur Students' Union (AMSU) and Democratic Students' Alliance of Manipur (DESAM) as well as child rights bodies like Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR) and Coalition on Children's Right to Protection (CCRP) have contended that the ongoing operation is in violation of the fundamental rights of the children of surrounding areas.

Demanding the ongoing Operation Summer Storm be stopped and allowed them to study in peace, a large number of displaced students today staged a Wakat Meepham at Ithai Pouoibi Community Hall today.

Students from schools in Ithai area also participated in the protest demonstration expressing solidarity to the cause of their displaced counterparts. Over students participated in the demonstration putting up placards inscribed with slogans like 'Stop Operation Summer Storm', 'Allow us to go to school and study peacefully', 'Students are the future pillars of the society', etc.

Meanwhile, maintaining that the ongoing Army operation at Loktak lake has deprived education of many children in the surrounding villages, All Manipur Students' Union (AMSU) and Democratic Students' Alliance of Manipur (DESAM) have appealed to suspend the operation at once.

Addressing a press conference jointly at the head office of AMSU here today, the leaders of the two student bodies have also called upon the State Government for taking up necessary measures in this regard.

HRD secretary of AMSU Dipaljit Ningthoujam asserted that ongoing Army operation is in violation of the Common Article-III of the Geneva Convention and the guidelines to be observed during non-conventional war have not been respected.

Apart from displacing many villagers and using innocent civilian as human shields by the Army, the ongoing operation has deprived the children of their rights to education, Dipaljit said, adding that a serious threat has also been posed ion the habitat of the rare and endangered species of Sangai at Keibul Lamjao National Park.

Education secretary of DESAM A Thoithoi pointed out that the ongoing operation is against the public demand for making education a free zone.

He also decried the Education Minister of the State Government for not coming out with any statement from his side inspite of the fact that the students of the surrounding villages have not attended their schools for more than one week now.

This shows that he is not fit to be the Education Minister, Thoithoi added.

On the other hand, two child rights bodies, namely Coalition on Children's Right to Protection (CCRP), Manipur and Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR) have contended that the ongoing operation has violated the fundamental rights of the children of the surrounding villages like Ithai, Khordak, Arong Nongmaikhong and Laphupat Tera.

In a joint statement, CCRP convenor S Sharaju Devi informed that members of the Fact Finding team of Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR) and Coalition on Children's Right to Protection (CCRP) visited these areas yesterday and found that besides the 3000 displaced villagers, there are as many as 1300 school going children reading in 6 different schools who could not attend their schools due to the impact of the ongoing operation.

Listing the names of the schools that have been forced to close due to the ongoing operation as Nongmaikhong Junior High School, Emanuel Grace Academy, Nongmaikhong Government LP School, Nongmaikhong Girls' Primary School (Aided), Eden Garden English School, Laphupat Tera Khunou LP School, the CCRP convenor lamented that one Balika UJB School situated at Sekmaijin and having more than 100 students is being occupied by the security forces since March 28 .

Urging the security personnel to vacate the school and restore normal classes at the earliest, the convenor of the child rights body observed that prolonged closure of educational institutions on the eve of their term end exams is a vivid example of violation of the fundamental rights to education of children as enshrined in Indian Constitution as well as the United Nation's Convention of Rights of the Child (CRC) .

Besides unprecedented large deployment of armed personnel, indiscriminate firing of heavy artilleries, constant aerial surveillance and intrusion of Army into the civilian areas drastically traumatised the children both psychologically and physically, the child rights body asserted.

It also noted that there is high possibility of epidemic outbreak such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid among the displaced children as the relief camps are highly congested with poor sanitary condition.

During the visit of the Fact Finding Team many children were found lying on the floor with signs of weak health.

So urgent action from the authorities concerned is highly needed.

It will definitely impact long term psychological drawbacks to the young children.

Appealing to call off the ongoing Operation Summer Storm with immediate effect, the two child rights bodies have also demanded restore of peace and normalcy in the surrounding villages so that the children could go to their a schools without any fear again.

Meanwhile, Young Ideal Club cum Library, Social Educational Sports and Cultural Organisation, Young Guidance Club, Keibul Lamjao Women's Development Association, Keibul Lamjao Women's Development Welfare Association, Keibul Chingmei Development Organisation and Momnu Irikhombi Lup (Mikhol Keibul Branch) have announced their decision of launching various agitations in association with the people if the ongoing Army operation at Loktak Lake is not called off at once.


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